Handicapping the 102nd Indianapolis 500 figures to be one of the more challenging tasks in recent memory. The forecast of 94 degrees with 70 percent humidity, compounded with the tricky handling characteristics of the new aero kits and Chevrolet’s dominance in qualifying, makes it more of a crapshoot than usual.
Las Vegas doesn’t pay much attention to IndyCar except for May — although that could all change with the Supreme Court ruling that could give states the option of having legal sports gambling, Indiana included.
Here are the odds from several sports books:
Alexander Rossi is the favorite at 7-1 or 8-1; followed by Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden at 10-1; Will Power at 11-1; and Ed Carpenter, Sebastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay at 12-1. Danica Patrick is 20-1, 2017 winner Takuma Sato is 33-1 and so is teammate Graham Rahal and rookie sensation Robert Wickens. Spencer Pigot, who starts sixth, is 50-1 and Jay Howard, who now has James Hinchcliffe’s crew that was runner-up in the pit stop contest, is 100-1.
A Chevy-powered car is –250 (to win $100) against Honda after placing seven cars in the Fast Nine, although it appeared the engines were much closer during Friday’s running. You get back $170 for a $100 bet if you favor Honda.
Rossi has been the quickest driver for much of the season, but he’s starting 32nd and it’s hard to imagine him as the favorite.
It’s tough to find knowledgeable IndyCar handicappers, but RACER’s Paul Pfanner spares no expense when it comes to quality, so he hired renowned NFL handicapping guru The Old Scout to break down Indy.
So here are what should be the real odds and a small explanation.
SCOTT DIXON (7 to 1): Based on Friday’s final practice, Dixon’s massive ability and his excellent pit crew, it’s easy to see him collecting win No.2.
TEAM PENSKE (8 to 1): Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Helio Castroneves have numbers on Dixon and history on their side. They all have great pit work and the advantage of splitting strategies.
ED CARPENTER (10 to 1): The three-time pole-sitter wasn’t pleased after Carb Day, but he’s got Allen McDonald (who won Indy with Dario Franchitti in 2007) in his ear and a fire in his belly.
TONY KANAAN (10 to 1): If the 2013 Indy 500 champ gets good pit work, he could put A.J. back in Victory Lane for the sixth time.
MARCO ANDRETTI: (12 to 1): He’s led a lot of laps and always contends for the win, so one of these days he’s going to drink the milk.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (12 to 1): He says passing is going to be hell but he’s only got four guys to get around, and Seb always brings his game face on Race Day.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (15 to 1): He’s starting 14th (although he won from 19th in 2014) but packs plenty of savvy and is due for a little racing luck.
ALEXANDER ROSSI (25 to 1): The farthest back anybody has ever come to win was 28th (Ray Harroun and Louie Meyer). The 2016 Indy 500 victor comes from the last row (32nd) and is going to have to parlay strategy with speed because everyone is moaning that you can’t pass.
ROBERT WICKENS (25 to 1): The Canadian rookie has been splendid all season and damn near won his oval-track debut at Phoenix. Got that IMS crash out of the way and stranger things have happened.
TAKUMA SATO (30 to 1): Last year’s winner starts 16th and is always charging, so you never know.
GRAHAM RAHAL (30 to 1): Struggled all month and starts 30th but he’s sixth in the points because he’s a racer and always goes forward.
SPENCER PIGOT (30 to 1): Pigot’s starting sixth and looked good on Friday; this would be a great place to get that first victory.
DANICA PATRICK (35 to 1): She did a great job in qualifying and always runs good at IMS, but a top-10 finish after seven years away would be like a win.
THE FIELD (50 to 1): You get Ed Jones (third last year), Max Chilton (led the most laps last year) and J.R. Hildebrand and Sage Karam (both run good at IMS).